Mochi: How to Eat Rice Cakes Safely

Many choking accidents caused by rice cakes occur every January. It is clear that rice cakes are a food that can easily choke people, and alerts and reports of accidents increase dramatically from the end of the year. Most of them are elderly people, but even young people can have choking accidents.

Make sure you know how to eat safely and enjoy your meal!


How to Eat Rice Cakes Safely


✔ Do not eat alone
✔ Do not eat when consuming large amounts of alcohol

How to Eat Rice Cakes Safely

✔ Moisten your throat with tea, water, or soup before eating rice cakes
✔ Reduce the amount of rice cake you put in your mouth at one time.
✔ Chew slowly and thoroughly before swallowing.
✔ Talk only after swallowing the rice cake and taking a breather.

Zōni sumashi shitate kakumochi

In Japan, foods that are too large to eat in one bite, such as fish and vegetables, are divided into smaller pieces using chopsticks on a plate or in a bowl before being put into the mouth.

However, there are times when it is difficult to use chopsticks to make small pieces of things such as rice cakes, meat, or pickles. In such cases, bite off the pieces. It is not a breach of etiquette to return the bits you have bitten off to your plate or bowl.

Eating in one bite because you can’t cut it up with chopsticks can cause it to catch in your throat or require multiple chews. Please choose a safe and tasty way to eat.

Most choking accidents in Japan occur among the elderly

Rice cake choking accidents are reported in the media every year. 90% of those who are transported to hospitals for food-related choking accidents are 65 years of age or older, mainly elderly people in their 70s to early 90s.

Elderly people’s teeth and mouth functions deteriorate, weakening their ability to chew and swallow. This makes it difficult to chew food into small pieces and send it smoothly down the back of the throat to be swallowed.
In addition, when food gets stuck in the throat, the human body normally tries to cough it out, but the elderly are less able to push it back in through coughing, etc., making it easier for them to choke.

Choking accidents are not limited to rice cakes at New Year’s

News reports of choking deaths from eating “rice cakes” and warnings of the dangers of choking increase at the end of each year. January is usually the time of year when most choking deaths occur.

Japanese sweet dumpling, called Mitarashi Dango.
Yomogi anko mochi

Therefore, attention tends to be paid only to “rice cakes” eaten during the New Year’s holiday. Even sticky foods such as “dango” and “daifuku,” which are popular Japanese sweets, can cause choking due to being caught in the throat. Even if you are young and healthy, you need to be careful.

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